The gruesome beheading of a British aid worker by the ISIS terror group in Syria over the weekend provoked a stern warning from Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron who vowed to “hunt down the murderers” for their “act of pure evil”.
The British victim was named as David Haines, a 44-year-old aid worker, who had been held hostage in Syria for many months. A graphic video released by his killers shows Haines kneeling on the ground dressed in an orange jumpsuit as a masked executioner severs his throat with a knife. The dead man’s prone body is then filmed with a decapitated, bloody head placed on the corpse’s back.
Some analysts have disputed the veracity of the video, saying it is a fake. But Haine’s foreboding demeanor and his final words spoken to the camera tend to verify the recording as genuine. The British government has also stated that it believes the footage to be authentic.
Haines was the third Westerner to be apparently murdered by the ISIS militants in the past four weeks using the same macabre ritual.Earlier this month, on September 3, a video showed American journalist Steven Sotloff also being decapitated in the same grisly manner. Two weeks before that, another abducted American citizen, James Foley, also a journalist, met the same grim fate at the hands of his captors.
A fourth man, another British national named as Alan Hemming, is feared to be the next ISIS victim, with unconfirmed video footage of his execution also posted this weekend.
The shocking scenes of brutality have sparked public outrage in the US and around the world. President Barack Obama addressed the nation in a prime-time television broadcast last week in which he declared that American forces would track down and destroy the ISIS terrorists. The group is also known by the alternative acronyms IS or ISIL, referring ostensibly to an aspired fundamentalist Islamic caliphate that incorporates Iraq and Syria.
At the same time that Obama was addressing the nation, US secretary of state John Kerry was in the Middle East drumming up support for an American-led international coalition to launch military strikes against ISIS, whose strongholds are in northern Iraq straddling the border with eastern Syria.
ISIS has been a prominent force among a myriad of militant cohorts that have been waging war against the Syrian state since March 2011. There is substantial evidence that Western governments have been covertly supporting ISIS and other extremists under the guise of assisting the “moderate rebels” for the ultimate purpose of destabilizing the Assad government of Syria and regime change. Assad is a staunch ally of Russia and Iran, and therefore is in the Western crosshairs for regime change.
But latterly ISIS has gained notoriety for its kidnapping and murder of Western citizens.
The newly formed US-led coalition against ISIS includes 10 Arab countries comprising Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan as well as the Persian Gulf kingdoms of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Paradoxically, it may seem, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been accused of being leading financial sponsors of the extremist groups fighting in Syria, including ISIS. But this link is not so paradoxical when the covert Western-designated role of the terror group is understood, as we shall see.
Washington has also, not surprisingly, garnered the support of Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Australia for its supposed anti-ISIS coalition.
A meeting this week in Paris will allegedly firm up military tactics on how the US-led coalition will carry out its putative strikes. So far, Washington has said that it will not be committing ground troops as in the previous Iraq War (2003-2012) and the ongoing US-led campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Obama said the modus operandi against ISIS would be like its “counter-terror operations in Yemen and Somalia”, where US air power is assisted by “partners on the ground”.
The fledgling Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al Abadi has welcomed the US air strikes. Since last month, American warplanes have launched nearly 150 bombing raids on suspected ISIS positions in northern Iraq. Last week saw the widening of these US air strikes to include western Iraq near Haditha. Because of Baghdad’s approval, the US-led coalition has legal cover to operate in Iraq. But this is not the case in neighboring Syria.
The Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad has not given its consent to the American plans, nor has it been consulted. Washington claims that Assad has no legitimacy or right to sovereignty because it alleges his “regime” has been repressing the civilian population – a claim that is contradicted by the re-election of Assad as president in June with a massive 88.7 per cent majority based on a voter turnout of 73.4 per cent.
Damascus has pointed out that any US military action in its territory – even if that action is against the enemy ISIS network – will amount to aggression against the Syrian state.
The objective legal position was also stipulated by the Russian government this week. Moscow said that, without Syrian government consent or a United Nations Security Council mandate, any US-led air strikes inside Syria would be “a gross violation of international law”.
Nevertheless, Obama has unequivocally stated that his proposed military coalition will conduct attacks on ISIS bases inside Syria. The legal implications of that contingency, however, appear to be unnerving the main US NATO allies – Britain, France and Germany.
In Berlin last week both the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his British counterpart Philip Hammond issued categorical statements saying that their countries would not be carrying out air strikes in Syria.
Hammond, like Steinmeier, gave full backing to US strikes against ISIS in Iraq, but he told the Reuters news agency: “Let me be clear: Britain will not be taking part in any air strikes in Syria. We have already had that discussion in our parliament last year and we won’t be revisiting that position.” Britain’s top diplomat added that the “legal permissiveness” of military operations in Iraq and Syria was completely different.
Hammond was referring to the vote in the British parliament last year in which MPs voted overwhelmingly against Britain joining a proposed American military intervention in Syria, following the deadly chemical weapons attack near Damascus on August 21.
Washington was lining up air strikes on Syria to purportedly avenge the killing of hundreds of civilians from poisonous gas. That incident was blamed on the armed forces of the Assad government but it was subsequently shown to be the covert work of anti-government militants, aimed at contriving as a false flag outrage to elicit Western military intervention.
The British parliament was therefore vindicated in its vote against military intervention in Syria, and that vote put paid to Washington’s plans back then. It signaled a rare British dissent in the “special relationship” with Washington, where Britain is usually a reliable junior partner for American militarism overseas.
At the time of the Westminster vote at the end of August 2013, British leader David Cameron was visibly downcast at the rejection of the proposed intervention in Syria. Given that the British government is a major player in the US-led regime-change conspiracy in Syria, Cameron’s dismay was understandable.
This week on the day after Hammond made the announcement in Berlin of non-intervention in Syria, he appeared to be over-ruled by his boss in 10 Downing Street. David Cameron contradicted his foreign minister by telling British media that “nothing had been ruled out” for Britain’s participation in the American-led anti-ISIS coalition. Cameron was clearly indicating that British fighter jets might indeed launch air strikes inside Syria.
Such a move would over-turn the British parliament’s landmark vote outlawing military intervention in Syria. It would also negate the majority sentiment of the British public, which has been trending strong opposition to their government becoming embroiled militarily in Syria.
However, graphic videos of extremists slicing off the head of a British aid worker could be a decisive turning point. It’s hard to imagine a more repugnant act of cruel depravity to turn public opinion away from its erstwhile opposition to war toward giving consent for military action to, as Cameron put it, “hunt down this pure evil”.
Note too that in recent weeks Western governments and their mass media have been raising security concerns about Western “jihadists” returning to their home countries to carry out terror missions. Australia’s government of Tony Abbott is the latest to put its country on “high alert”. Abbott told media this weekend that his government was also sending a 600-man military force to the Middle East to join the US-led coalition, and he cited the barbaric beheading of the British national as part of the reasoning for the Australian deployment.
The macabre video executions have also overturned anti-war public feeling in the US. When Obama was planning to launch air strikes in Syria last year following the chemical weapons incident, polls showed that a big majority – 70 per cent – of Americans were opposed to any intervention. That opposition, plus the British parliament’s rejection, was a major factor in why Obama backed down then on his proposed military strikes during September 2013.
But after the latest videos showing two American journalists being brutally slain, US public opinion, according to recent polls, is now strongly in favour of Obama’s anti-ISIS bombing coalition; not just operating in Iraq, but more significantly, the American public wants the coalition to go after ISIS inside Syria too. Thus, where the chemical weapons horror last year failed to convince the American public to give its approval for US air strikes in Syria, the beheading of American hostages has succeeded.
For Washington and its close London ally, the British public is a crucial constituency to also win over. It seems more than a coincidence that ISIS has now carried out the same sickening execution of a British national as it did with the two Americans. President Obama said after the videoed slaying of Briton David Haines that the US “stands shoulder-to-shoulder” with the British people.
The question is this: are these shocking executions, with their highly stylised graphic videos, being used to manipulate public consent for Western military intervention in Syria? In that case, ISIS is not acting in some apparent rogue fashion, turning on its Western intelligence masters, but rather it is obeying orders as usual as part of a macabre charade to facilitate Western military intervention.
Once again, what we are seeing is a variation of “humanitarian pretext” to pave the way for the covert, ulterior agenda of Western-orchestrated regime change in foreign countries. That ploy was used previously by NATO forces in former Yugoslavia at the end of the 1990s and more recently in Libya during 2011.
It is well documented that ISIS, IS or ISIL, is a terror network created by US, British and Saudi military intelligence going back to the early years of the Iraq War beginning in 2003, when the group played a vital role in fomenting sectarian strife in Iraq to the advantage of the Western occupying armies.The network has antecedents in Western collusion with radical Islamist mercenaries in Afghanistan during the 1980s against the former Soviet Union, which led to the formation of Al Qaeda, and also in Chechnya in the mid-1990s.
ISIS leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi is known to be a US intelligence asset, according to a former senior Al Qaeda operative, Nabil Naim, among other sources. Former CIA personnel have also disclosed that ISIS, like Al Qaeda, was set up to further geopolitical goals for Washington and its allies in the Middle East. These goals include regime change in target countries, such as Syria, and perpetuating the money-spinning American military-industrial complex by creating an endless security threat. Officially, the network may be a proscribed terror organization and “an enemy of the state”. But in the underworld of black operations, ISIS is a covert instrument of US government and corporate interests.
Given the strategic importance of the US-led regime-change objective in Syria – and in particular the importance of obtaining public support for military intervention in that country – it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the ISIS network is carrying out beheadings of Western citizens on the orders of its handlers in the CIA and Britain’s MI6. Perhaps even, the outward political leadership in Washington and London, Obama and Cameron, are unaware of their own dark forces at work, which gives their public reactions of indignation an air of authenticity and credibility.
Indeed, the evident political consequences from the latest execution of Briton David Haines and Americans Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff are strongly indicative of a Western psychological operation. That makes Washington and London culpable of murdering their own citizens for geopolitical expediency. These victims are sacrificial lambs in the foulest sense.
By Finian Cunningham, SCF